Toys of Summer

Toys of Summer
The BMW ActiveHybrid X6

It’s no wonder so many people go car shopping after Memorial Day. Summer beckons with blue skies and the open road.

Vacations and weekend drives are always better with a new ride — and today there's no reason that ride can't be as green as a picnic at the park. Gone are the days when eco-friendly meant boxy and boring. Now there's a whole spectrum of vehicles available, from economical commuters to versatile family wagons — even souped-up sports and luxury rides.


There's a green model to suit any lifestyle. Let's test drive a sampling.

Family Fun 

Americans love the idea of conserving fuel but have no intention of giving up their SUV lifestyles, said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

"Americans are very much aware and concerned with environmental and gas-importing issues, but they don't want to give up their versatility and cargo space," he said.

Exhibit A: The all-new 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid compact utility vehicle is everything an SUV lover could want in a small package, with versatility joined by performance and advanced technology (hands-free liftgate and Sync are included). Best of all, mpg is expected to range up to the mid-40s.  

Replacing the pioneering Ford Escape Hybrid in the crossover segment, the C-MAX is joined by a slew of new green rides.

The Prius v is loaded with new tech. Entune accesses mobile apps as well as endless music options — from iheartradio’s 750-plus stations to Pandora’s personalized playlists. And it allows hands-free voice text-message exchanges.  

Stepping up in class, check out the new ActiveHybrid X6, one of BMW’s latest hybrid crossovers, a boldly styled midsize that runs entirely on electricity at speeds up to 37 miles per hour. This impressive ActiveHybrid, with all-wheel-drive standard and 480 horsepower, has seating for four or five. 

Cool Commutes

Getting to work has never been so affordable — or exciting. Toyota’s newly expanded Prius family also features the super-green Prius c compact sedan (that’s “c” as in city). A smaller version of the original, it serves up 53 mpg around town — the highest mileage for any non-electric ride — and no shortage of cool cachet. It too is equipped with Entune, along with a sticker price that’s lower than the regular Prius. 

The all-new 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco adds a sporty edge and upgraded dual-cockpit interior to the redesigned Malibu line — along with a mild-hybrid 2.4-liter direct-injection engine and electric motor that combine for up to 37 mpg highway.  

Malibu has never been so stylish — think Camaro DNA channeled through a more luxurious midsize package with sporty handling and high-tech MyLink infotainment system. And the aerodynamic Eco is positioned as one of the most affordable green options on the market.

"The Malibu Eco is a smart choice for customers who want a great-looking car inside and out with excellent fuel economy, but without the higher price of some hybrid sedans," said Russ Clark, director of Chevrolet marketing.

For those who prefer a touch of luxury in their commutes, Lexus has beefed up its hybrid line with the CT 200h, a sporty premium five-door compact with extreme green credentials: The CT 200h gets 43 mpg in city driving and 40 highway through a 1.8-liter I-4 rated at 98 horsepower. 

“The CT 200h … isn’t just about being a hybrid, it’s about having fun,” said Mark Templin, Lexus Division group vice president and general manager. 

Want to switch to clean diesel? The popular Volkswagen Jetta TDI is equipped with a turbo 2-liter engine that gets more than 40 mpg. VW plans to follow it up with a 2013 Jetta Hybrid that fetches a combined 45 mpg. 

Green Bling

We're especially impressed with the elegantly aggressive 2012 Infiniti M35h midsize hybrid sedan, rated up to 30 mpg with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine churning out a combined 360 horsepower. A gas-electric version of the M37, it offers standard features including leather upholstery and a moonroof.

In addition to its well-received BlueTEC diesel line, Mercedes-Benz recently rolled out the S400 Hybrid, a sexy full-size sedan packing a 3.5-liter V-6 that kicks out nearly 300 horsepower. The S400 interior is all chrome and wood, with a host of cutting-edge options: massaging seats, infrared night-vision and, yes, even a driver drowsiness monitor that makes sure you don’t nod off. 

Lincoln weighs in with the MKZ Hybrid, a midsize luxury sedan with all the comfort and extras that Lincoln lovers covet (cooled leather seating comes standard, no small incentive in SoCal summers), along with 41 mpg in-city and 36 highway fuel efficiency. The 2.5-liter I-4 gas engine couples with the electric motor to generate 191 horsepower.

“The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid offers everything our customers look for in a midsize luxury sedan, plus unsurpassed fuel economy,” said Derrick Kuzak, vice president of Ford Global Product Development.

Bob Young
Custom Publishing Writer